Pensioner used live artillery shell as a doorstop for 20 years

2nd July 2007
Daily Mail

A bomb bomb disposal team was called to a pensioner's home to detonate a First World War artillery shell she has used as a doostep for 20 years.

Thelma Bonnett, 68, had used the 90-year-old German explosive to prop open her front door for more than 20 years.

The device had been in the family for nearly a century after her grandfather Arthur Croxall brought it home in 1918.

Armed and dangerous: The live artillery shell has been used as a doorstep for over 20 years

It took pride of place on the family mantelpiece for years and was regularly polished - and even used as toy.

Mrs Bonnett eventually began using it as doorstop in the 1980s until a neighbour spotted it and asked where it had come from.

He immediately called police and a Royal Navy bomb squad discovered the shell was live and packed full of explosives.

Several neighbours were evacuated from their homes and the device taken to a local quarry where it was exploded.

Experts say it is a "miracle" the shell never blew up.

Mrs Bonnett, of Paignton, Devon, said: "I had no idea it was dangerous. Grandfather picked it up on his travels with the Merchant Navy in 1918.

Thelma Bonnett was somewhat taken aback by the news that the family heirloom was in fact fatally dangerous

"My father used to polish it all the time and kept it on the mantelpiece. It looked German because of the writing on the top.

"When I was young, five of us children would play with it. I don't think he would have brought it back if he'd know it was live." The seven inch cylindrical mortar shell was spotted propping open her door by Thelma's neighbour, John Malinovskis.

He said: "I put two and two together and thought 'that really shouldn't be there'. "I asked Thelma if she knew about it and she 'oh yes, it's from the war'. She said her father had polished it and kept it on the sideboard." Thelma's son Steve added: "I remember it being in my grandparent's house when I was growing up.

"I probably played with it a few times. It was just one of those things that was always around." A spokesman for the bomb squad said a firing mechanism had been activated during the First World War but the shell failed to go off.

The firing mechanism had since fallen off but the 'live' explosive could have exploded at any moment.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The shell was packed full of explosives and it could have gone off at any time.

"It was brought back from France in 1914 and had been used in battle when it had been fired but failed to go off.

"There is a time delay on these type of shells which meant a brass ring could be turned on top which gave them enough time to fire it to go off in the air or on the ground."

A police spokesman said: "A neighbour was concerned about a shell. The homeowner said she had played with it as a child and was using it as a doorstop."